Registered endurance trainers will be given automatic provisional suspensions when horses in their care test positive to prohibited substances, as the FEI beefs up measures to deal with ongoing doping issues in the Middle East.

This in the first time a FEI anti-doping rule will be discipline-specific – subject to ratification at the FEI General Assembly in November. Endurance still returns more positive samples than any other FEI sport.

In equestrianism, because the rider is usually the horse’s trainer and stable manager he is regarded as the prime “person responsible” (PR) and thereby liable for suspension and/or fines if the horse tests positive.

However, endurance in the Middle East is run on similar lines to Thoroughbred racing. Many hundreds of horses are kept in large barns and prepared by professional trainers – who must be registered with the FEI and competed by staff riders or visitors from overseas who have had little prior contact with the animal. Two riders currently awaiting FEI Tribunal decisions are South American visitors who accepted rides in the UAE last winter on horses which then tested positive to banned substances. One of them rode two different horses failing dope tests within a fortnight of each other.

The FEI Tribunal first warned in 2005 about the anomaly of the trainer not being the rider in endurance. More recently, FEI legal obtained discretionary powers to join extra persons – including trainers, owners, vets and grooms – in doping sanctions where there was clear evidence of complicity. If the new rules are approved, trainer suspension will be non-negotiable.

Steps will also be taken to stop suspended trainers having contact with any other horses, and prevent any horses still registered to him being entered in CEN (national) or CEI (FEI) rides.

The FEI may also bar a suspended trainer from attending rides as a spectator, or having any other type of “professional” contact with riders under the “Prohibited Association” rules introduced in 2015.

The FEI says it has “mirrored” the wording of the British Horseracing Authority’s similar system.

Explaining the rationale, the FEI legal department wrote: “In endurance, particularly in certain regions, it is accepted that the day to day care of the horse is usually managed by the registered trainer.

“Even if the FEI opens a separate case against the trainer, under the current system it is not mandatory/automatic to provisionally suspend the trainer. He/she is free to train other horses while the legal process case against him is ongoing.

“To strengthen the system, the FEI proposes to provisionally suspend a registered trainer in endurance cases even if there is only one controlled medication in the sample, if that trainer has a pending or prior violation of the rules (with the same horse or another horse). This means there are consequences for registered trainers even if an athlete accepts the fast track [an elective fine of 1500 Swiss francs and disqualification.]”

The full proposal can be read here.